By Ashok Ramsarup :: Mixed reactions have been expressed over the easing of restrictions on the lockdown as South Africa’s economy and unemployment are at low ebb. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be moving to Level Two from Tuesday as the coronavirus level trajectory showed a 48 percent rate decrease from the deadly Novel Covid-19 pandemic. But the cumulative number of cases in the country, Ramaphosa said the figures remained extremely high at 583,653.
South Africa has the fifth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world and the most on the African continent. About 11,550 related deaths were registered to date, while more than 460,000 people have recovered from the virus.
While the deadly disease had impacted on the daily life of people, Ramaphosa announced on television certain easing of restrictions, including the lifting of alcohol and tobacco sale as well as the re-opening of restaurants and taverns.
He said: “The virus has impacted and disrupted the daily life of millions of people. It has meant hardship and hunger had caused pain, anxiety, and despair that no person should have endured as a result of the Covid-19 Virus.
“It has required a careful balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods, between a devastating epidemic and a deep recession that required difficult choices with far-reaching consequences.
“While the measures we have taken have resulted in great hardship, we know that the alternative – of an uncontrolled surge of infections and a health system unable to cope – would have been even more devastating,” Ramaphosa stated.
Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson on Social Development, Les Govender commented that the country was facing an economic recession, there were no strategic plans in place to encourage Foreign Direct Investment.
Govender said: “There is no visible plan by the power utility Eskom to encourage big companies that uses electricity to help and generate employment.
He said: “For sustainable social development, the government needs definitive plans to get South Africa out of the economic doldrums.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) Interim Leader John Steenhuisen said the announcement came too late as the pandemic cost the livelihood of millions of people.
Steenhuisen added that people must be accountable for poor models in paralyzing the country’s economy since the lockdown became effective in March. His DA colleague Western Cape Premier Alan Winde had warned President Ramaphosa that they expected over 100 000 people to lose their jobs in the province’s tourism sector as a direct result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] noted the statement by the president of the decision by the National Coronavirus Command Council to move the country to Level 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown levels from Tuesday as part of government’s Risk-Adjusted Strategy.
NEHAWU said extreme caution and adherence to the regulations and guidelines still needed to be exercised to save lives and to avert new infections. The statement said the unbanning of both alcohol and cigarettes should not lead to another influx of people needing help in healthcare facilities thus further straining overworked healthcare workers.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa